Manasbal Bandipora (Jammu and Kashmir) [India], August 23 (ANI): An event was held near Manasbal Lake on Monday to commemorate the day a group of 23 young Kashmiri boys was apprehended while attempting to cross the Line of Control (LOC) in Gurez sector on 23 August 1998.
These boys were compelled to join militancy by false assurances of a fellow Kashmiri, Abdul Hamid Gada (Bambar Khan), resident of Ganderbal. They were being taken to Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (POK) for getting trained in terrorist activities, said Budhwar, Brigadier of Indian Army.
Khan, with the help of local over-the-ground workers, had collected these 23 young boys all below 18 years of age, either by force or through radicalisation, and had kept them in jungles of Ajas for 10 days in 1998.
Thereafter the group moved across the Shamsha Barirange into Gurez Tulail Valley to cross over into POK and train them in terrorist activities and to re-infiltrate into Kashmir to enact the agenda of the masters of Separatists, read a press release by the Indian Army.
On 23 Aug 1998, someone informed the Brigade Headquarters that a large number of youth were seen in the jungles near the Kishenganga River.
An operation was led by Budhwar, then Captain of Indian Army and now Brigadier. These boys immediately surrendered to Indian Army soldiers. The troops quickly took control of the situation and helped them to cross the river which was in spate and escorted them to Gurez where they were medically examined and were given food, water, and warm beds to sleep, he informed.
Later these boys were reunited with their parents to join the mainstream by General Ved Prakash Malik, then Chief of the Army Staff (COAS) at Badamibagh Cantonment Board in front of the civil administration.
It is important to note that each one of them today is a good parent to a sum total of 43 children and is leading a normal and happy life as good citizens of India.
"This story reminds you a fact that life gives you a second chance if you accept your mistake and want to come back to the mainstream. I am sure when these 23 individuals look back they will derive satisfaction from the decision they took 23 years ago to leave guns and come back to their families," said Lieutenant General Yogesh Kumar Joshi, General Officer Commanding-in-Chief Northern Command.
During the press conference, he said, "I want to send a message to the 'Awam' that the Indian army is there to give a second chance to any youth who accepts their mistakes, surrender, and wants to come back to the mainstream".
Lieutenant General YK Joshi, Army Commander of Northern Command, felicitated the rescued individuals and interacted with their family members. Along with Joshi, Lieutenant General Devendra Pratap Pandey AVSM, VSM is a three-star rank general of the Indian Army and is the General-Officer-Commanding of the Srinagar-based Chinar Corps, other senior civil and military officials, also attended the function. (ANI)